Friday, November 28, 2008

A Godless Thanksgiving - Misquoting Lincoln

In his 2008 Thanksgiving address, Barack Obama quoted Abraham Lincoln's proclamation in which he established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving. Here are Obama's words:

Nearly 150 years ago, in one of the darkest years of our nation's history, President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. America was split by Civil War. But Lincoln said in his first Thanksgiving decree that difficult times made it even more appropriate for our blessings to be -- and I quote -- "gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people."

Notice anything missing? Maybe it would help if I recalled the context of the Lincoln quote:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

President Lincoln is reminding the nation that judgement is the result of sin. He points out that the gracious gifts we receive from the hand of God are the result of His mercy, not what we deserve or have earned.

No such acknowledgement from the president-elect. Far from it. Instead, he continues his speech by assuring us that a better economy will come by "the hard work, innovation, service, and strength of the American people." This is how he ends the speech:

Times are tough. There are difficult months ahead. But we can renew our nation the same way that we have in the many years since Lincoln's first Thanksgiving: by coming together to overcome adversity; by reaching for -- and working for -- new horizons of opportunity for all Americans.

So this weekend -- with one heart, and one voice, the American people can give thanks that a new and brighter day is yet to come.

A new and brighter day to do what? Continue to praise the efforts of man? Persist in sin and in shutting out the knowledge of God and His judgments?

Some scripture comes to mind:

Isaiah 5:20-21 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

May God have mercy on our nation.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

All Life Is Precious

video

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why Does God Withdraw From His Children?

If you have been a Christian for very long, you have experienced a time when God seems to be far away. You wonder if He is listening, or if He has forgotten you. You are not alone. Note these Psalms:

Psalm 13:1 How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 10:1 Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?

Why does this happen? What could be the purpose? The Bible does not give us a direct answer to these questions. However, it does tell us that God is always with us, no matter how we feel:
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

However, the knowledge that God is always with us does not answer the question as to why He seems to withdraw His presence from time to time. For that, we can only speculate.

One of the better specualtions, I think, comes from C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters. The book is an allegory of the supposed letters from the senior devil Screwtape to his nephew devil-in-learning Wormwood. It is Wormwood's assignment to trip up and eventually damn a young man they call the "patient". I offer here the audio (read by John Cleese) and the text of chapter 8. See if this doesn't help you understand a little of God's reasons for sometimes whithdrawing from us. Remember that since this is the devil talking, good is bad, right is wrong, etc.

Here is the audio.

VIII
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away", have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dulness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily good; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them,

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Temptations Are Old Temptations

Christians tend to believe that temptations are beoming stronger and that they face more pressure than those who were serving God in the past. The Bible does say that evil men and seducers will become worse, but there is no evidence that it is any more difficult to live a life pleasing to God today than it has ever been.

On Sunday, May 18, Pastor Forsee pointed out how Job faced some of the same temptations we do, and yet Job resisted and prevailed. God called him a perfect man.

Here is the 2-minute clip.
Here is the whole sermon.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Little Stuff Refutes Radical KJO

Radical King James Onlyism (RKJO) is a doctrine that teaches that the Authorized Version of the Bible is inspired by God in every word, that it is eternal and unchangeable, and that it is without error or internal contradiction.

If God gave us the KJV as His perfect Word in English as the RKJO adherents say, then we should find a unique and remarkable document. We should find no contradictions of fact, no translation mistakes, and no grammatical errors. Even the little things - and especially the little things - would be perfect. If God dictated the KJV, then the KJV would be as perfect as heaven itself.

But it's not. It just isn't perfect. The KJV is riddled with little mistakes and inconsistencies, just as you would expect from any man-made translation.

Seraphims

In Isaiah 6, we have Isaiah's powerful description of his vision of the Lord:

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. Isaiah 6:1-2

In verse 2, we have the word "saraphims." It appears again in verse 6. What is interesting about this word is that it is a grammatical error -- a double plural. In Hebrew, a saraph is a type of angel. To create the plural of saraph, you would add the suffix "im" making it "seraphim." The translators used the plural word, but then for reasons no one understands, they added the letter "s" to the end. Saying "seraphims" for seriphim is like saying "mices" for mice, "mooses" for moose, or using "geeses" for the plural of goose. If the KJV were dictated by God word-for-word, this error would not be in Isaiah 6 verses 2 and 6. It is a goofy little human error, plain and simple, and it refutes the RKJO position.

Old Testament Quotes

People who hold the RKJO position make a big deal about wording changes. Their main complaint against the "evil" New King James Version is that it "changes words." They reject the idea that God's Word is comprised of thoughts that can be expressed in different words. It is the words themselves that are important, they say. One RKJO told me that God inspired "every syllable" of the KJV.

This is a position can be easily verified by reviewing the wording of the KJV itself. If God intends for His Word to be expressed in specific words that can never be changed, then we would expect that when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, the wording in each of them would be identical. All we have to do is check and see if this is so.

Here is one where Jesus Himself is reading from two Old Testament passages:

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. - KJV

Now let us look at the passages He was reading as fond in the King James Version:

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; - KJV

Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. - KJV

Jesus does not quote either one of these passages word-for-word, even though He is reading directly from a scroll. Next, let's look at Paul's direct quote of David in Romans 4. The KJV acknowledges that this is a direct quote by capitalizing the first words in each line.

Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. - KJV

Here is the psalm he is quoting:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. - KJV

Again, the words are not identical. Clearly, God intended His Word to be an expression of ideas, not a collection of unchangeable words. The quotes of the Old Testament found in the New Testament refute the RKJO position.

Straining At A Translation

One of the more amusing side effects of the RKJO doctrine is that they are forced to defend every kind of error in the KJV, including printing errors! That's right, they have to find a way to prove that a printing error was actually not an error, but rather it was God's intervention to correct the "corrupted" original Greek texts and deliver to us His perfect Word in the English language.
Take a look at the words of Jesus as He pronounces woe on the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. - KJV

The phrase "strain at a gnat" makes no sense, especially when we look a the Greek texts, all of which say "strain out a gnat." It is highly unlikely that the translators made a mistake like this. We know that there were other printer's errors that were corrected in the first printings. It is highly likely that this is one that has slipped by to this day. In any case, whether the translators made the error or the printers and proofreaders made the error, it is an error. It refutes the RKJO position.

Easter - Before Easter Existed

In Acts 12, we have the account of Herod arresting and imprisoning Peter. Verse 4 shows that Herod's intention was to put Peter on trial "after Easter"

Act 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered
him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring
him forth to the people. - KJV

The use of the word Easter here is rather curious, because it is the only time that the Greek word for Passover is translated Easter. In the other 28 times that the Greek word for Passover appears, it is translated Passover.

Furthermore, we know that the Christian celebration of Easter did not begin for at least another 100 years after the Apostles. The earliest reference we have to the Christian celebration of Easter is in a sermon by Melito of Sardis, who died in AD 180. The fact that Easter was not celebrated by Christians in the days of the Apostles, and the fact that the Greek says "Passover" refutes the RKJO position that the KJV is without error.

The Little Stuff Refutes Radical KJO

These few examples are a mere sampling of the hundreds of little oddities, inconsistencies, and outright errors in the King James Version. If the KJV were the final and perfect revelation of God's Word, we wouldn't have these examples to look at.

God doesn't make any mistakes. All His works are complete and perfect. The King James Version, however, has mistakes and errors, big and small. This shows that the KJV is exactly what it claims to be - an imperfect translation of God's perfect Word. The RKJO doctrine is refuted by the little stuff.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

We Need to Get People Lost

Does it just seem wrong to you when people have to be persuaded and pleaded with to become a Christian? Why is it that more people start in the way than stay in the way? Ever notice that people who are dragged to an altar of public prayer seldom set up an altar of private prayer? So what is going on?

Well, some of the problem might be the way we are approaching sinners with the Gospel. Ray Comfort points this out in his book Hell's Best Kept Secret:

The way we present the gospel determines the kind of response the sinner makes.

Let me illustrate.

Two men are seated in a plane. A stewardess gives the first man a parachute and instructs him to put it on because it will "improve his flight."

Not understanding how a parachute could possibly improve his flight, the first passenger is a little skeptical. Finally he decides to see if the claim is true. After strapping on the parachute, he notices its burdensome weight, and he has difficulty sitting upright. Consoling himself with the promise of a better flight, our first passenger decides to give it a little time.

Because he's the only one wearing a parachute, some of the other passengers begin smirking at him, which only adds to his humiliation. Unable to stand it any longer, our friend slumps in his seat, unstraps the parachute, and throws it to the floor. Disillusionment and bitterness fill his heart because as far as he is concerned, he was told a lie.

Another stewardess gives the second man a parachute, but listen to her instructions. She tells him to put it on because at any moment he will be jumping out of the plane at 25,000 feet.

Our second passenger gratefully straps the parachute on. He doesn't notice its weight upon his shoulders nor that he can't sit up upright. His mind is consumed with the thought of what would happen to him if he jumped without it. When other passengers laugh at him, he thinks, "You won't be laughing when you're falling to the ground!"

The problem with many "conversions" is that people are converted for the wrong reasons. Someone told them that accepting Jesus into their heart will give them joy and happiness, or make life easier to cope with. All this may be true, but it is the wrong reason to get saved.

If people are converted for the wrong reason, their faith fades when that reason goes away. Like the man who was told his parachute would "improve his flight", they will abandon the parachute when they see others who are having a perfectly good flight without one. If you get them in on the basis of joy, they'll lose interest when sadness sets in. If you promise them that God has a wonderful plan for their life, they will fall away when they don't like the direction that plan is taking.

So what is the proper basis for Salvation? The proper basis for Salvation is the knowledge of sin and its consequences. People need to realize that they are lost in their sin, that a high and holy God is disgusted by what they are, and that He is going to judge them for it.

Once people know and understand that they are lost in sin, they won't have a problem repenting and coming to the Savior for mercy, and they won't be falling away afterward. That's why I say that we don't need to get people saved - we need to get people lost.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What About Those Keys?

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19
I have heard a number of explanations of this passage, but none as clear, complete, and theologically satisfying as the one Pastor Forsee gave in this past Sunday's sermon. I'll let you hear it the same way I did. Just click here for the 2-minute clip.

Here is the whole sermon.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Amazing Grace


video

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Friday, April 25, 2008

A Call to Battle

Our pastor, Rev. Timothy Forsee, delivered a message at the Interchurch Holiness Convention in Dayton Ohio on Tuesday, April 15, 2008.

Let me tell you something - he was on fire, on message, on a roll! It is only 14 minutes, and well worth your time. It will make you proud to be a Christian and ready to get every sinner you know saved.


video

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Which King James Version?

In a previous post, I defined a particular kind of belief that I call a Radical King James Onlyism or RKJO. In this article, I want to examine the claim of RKJO adherents that the King James Version is the word-for-word inspiration of God.

This claim is implied when authors of RKJO books create their ubiquitous "comparison tables" where they excoriate other versions for "leaving out God's words." They complain if a version chooses a word that is different from the KJV. To see this, just do a Google search on NKJV and see what comes up.

They also make direct claims for the inspiration and inerrancy of the KJV:

I am saying that the Authorized Version is every word of God that was in the original autographs, preserved to this day." - Sam Gipp, An Understandable History of the Bible, Chapter 9
“The King James Bible was ‘given by inspiration of God.’” - Peter Ruckman, The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship, pp. 271-272
These are bold claims that should be easily to put to the test. If the KJV is perfect, inerrant, and unchangeable in every word, then we would expect to find just that - an unchanging document. However, that is not what we find. When we examine the history of the KJV, we see that it has been revised at least four times since its first publication in 1611. The revision most commonly used today is the 1769 version made by Benjamin Blayney.

When confronted with this revision history, RKJO adherents quickly dismiss it by claiming that the revisions were limited to spelling and punctuation changes. They assert that no words were changed. This is an important argument for them, because their claim of word-for-word inspiration and inerrancy is made for the 1611 version. If they use the 1769 version (and most of them do), then any documented wording changes would seriously undermine their argument.

Well, there is bad news for their argument. The revisions did make wording changes. F.H.A. Scrivener outlines a number of wording changes between 1611 and 1769. In the approved RKJO manner, I will show the comparisons. First, I will show the wording of a passage as it is in the 1769 version, then an image of the same passage in the original Authorized Version printed by Robert Barker in 1611.

In Deuteronomy 26:1, the 1769 version adds the words "thy God":
Deuteronomy 26:1 And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;


The 1769 version adds "the children of" in Joshua 13:29.
Joshua 13:29 And Moses gave inheritance unto the half tribe of Manasseh: and this was the possession of the half tribe of the children of Manasseh by their families.


The 1769 version changes "seek good" to "seek God" at Psalm 69:32.
Psalm 69:32 The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.


Jeremiah 49:1 says "inherit Gad" in the 1769 version, but says "inherit God" in the 1611.
Jeremiah 49:1 Concerning the Ammonites, thus saith the LORD; Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth their king inherit Gad, and his people dwell in his cities?


The 1769 version says "the Christ" at Matthew 16:16. The 1611 omits "the."
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.


The 1769 version changes "no man" to "none" and then italicizes "there is."
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.


The 1611 version says "aproved to death", the 1769 says "appointed to death" at 1 Corinthians 4:9.
1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Now, if you are the least bit tempted to think that this line of argumentation against the RKJO position is nit-picking, please remember what the RKJO position is. The RKJO position is that the King James Version is the word-for-word inspired, immutable, and perfectly preserved Word of God. They say that other versions are "corrupt" because they "change God's Words." The acid test of the validity of an argument is whether it works both ways. Is the KJV corrupt because its words have been changed?

Here is the truth: the King James Version itself is not perfectly preserved! Even to this day, there are differences between the Oxford Authorized Version and the Cambridge Authorized Version at Jeremiah 34:16, 2 Chronicles 33:19, and Nahum 3:16.

So here is a question any RKJO must answer and then defend: if the KJV is God's perfectly preserved Word, then which KJV is the prefect one, and why?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chick-fil-a Founder Honored

Today, President George Bush honored Chick-fil-a Founder, President, and CEO Truett Cathy with the Lifetime President's Volunteer Service Award at the White House.

Truett Cathy is a committed Christian with a firm committment to honoring the Lord's Day by not doing business on Sunday. Here is the official company statement on their Sunday policy:

Of the many unique characteristics that distinguish Chick-fil-A, Inc. from other quick-service restaurant companies, the most notable – and the most asked about – tradition is that of closing all its more than 1,380 restaurants on Sunday. Following is a brief explanation of how the “Closed-on-Sunday” policy started and why it will continue to remain in place.

Since Truett Cathy, founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A, opened his first restaurant in 1946, he has made his Closed-on-Sunday policy as much a part of the Chick-fil-A brand as the original Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich. While many question the chain’s policy and how Chick-fil-A could forgo sales on one of the busiest days for food service, Cathy answers challengers by saying closing on Sunday is one of the best business decisions he has ever made.

Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the “Lord’s Day.” Today, the Closed-on-Sunday policy is reflected in the company’s Corporate Purpose:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us.
To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people.

Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people. And people, Cathy says, are the cornerstone of all that
Chick-fil-A does as a chain. Chick-fil-A has the opportunity to attract individuals who want to be associated with an organization with a values-based vision, is purpose-driven and that truly values a balance between work and family.

In today’s business world, the Closed-on-Sunday policy may seem to be a costly business decision. But, as company sales figures have consistently proven, Chick-fil-A restaurants often generate more business per square foot in six days than many other quick-service restaurants produce in seven. Chick-fil-A generated more than $2.64 billion dollars in sales in 2007, and the chain has enjoyed sales gains for 40 consecutive years (every year since the first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 1967). Cathy credits “blessings from the Lord” for the great success the company has enjoyed, and he remains as committed as ever to maintaining the Closed-on-Sunday policy. “I feel it’s the best business decision I ever made,” says Cathy.

[end of statement]


Bless you, Mr. Cathy!

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Some Useful Links

From time to time I get the question, "Are there any places on the web where I can find good, useful, and reliable information for Bible study?" That is a fair question, because the Internet is mind-bogglingly huge, and a significant chunk of it is useless. Just finding something is not enough. Next you have to research the source to see if the information comes from a reliable place. The task can be daunting.

The search is well worth it, though. And when you do find a good source, it is like gold. A good source for Bible translations or commentaries can save a bundle of money. Also, electronic copies of texts tend to be searchable. It can be much easier to find things online. I use the online versions of books I own for just this purpose.

I think it is a great idea for people to share links to online resources that they have found to be useful. Listed below are links to some resources I use on a regular basis, along with a short comment on why I like them. I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment with any link you can share. I'm always looking for good stuff.

Bible: Bible Gateway
These guys run one of the most powerful Bible text resources on the net. Just about any version you would want to use is here, and each version is fully searchable. They are also a good place to link into from a blog article if you what to refer to a Bible text. For instance, John 3:16 in the KJV, or Ephesians 2:1-5 in the NASB.

Bible: Parallel Bible
Sometimes I want to see several versions side-by-side. The Parallel Bible is the place to do this. The interface is a little clunky, but once you get used to it, it is a powerful tool.

Bible: Greek Interlinear
If you don't use Greek interlinears, skip this. If you do, you might like this one. They have online PDF printouts, and they have a free software application that does a lot of fancy cross-referencing in the New Testament Greek text. Please be aware that it is the NA 27 critical text.

Bible: Audio Treasure
The entire Bible in audio MP3 format, in different versions and languages.

Commentary: Adam Clarke
This is the good old fashioned Adam Clarke, just like the six-volume set on my bookshelf. I find myself using both the print version and the online version. I use the books when I want to read large amounts of text. I use the online version to search for specific words or topics. It is harder to read large amounts of text online, especially here, because they have inserted a bunch of annoying, useless hypertext links.

Commentary: Matthew Henry
The same for Matthew Henry. Got the books, sometimes use the online.

Commentary: John Wesley
The same for John Wesley.

Commentary: Robertson's Word Pictures
Robertson is an old classic, and sometimes he can give some great insight into the original text of the Bible. He is not nearly as good as Ralph Earle, though, and you have to watch his theology.

Commentary: Tanach with RASHI
If you ever want to know what the ancient rabbis taught about some Old Testament text, RASHI is your guy. RASHI (capitalized because it is an acronym) was an eleventh-century French rabbi who collected and recorded teachings on the entire Tanach (OT). Don't take the rabbis too seriously, though. Remember they are not Christians, and they tend to lean heavily toward mysticism and allegorizing Scripture. Some of the connections they make are just flat-out bizarre.

Library: Christian Classics Ethereal Library
What can I say about CCEL - it is just huge! Church fathers, ancient creeds, anything old. It is the Christian way-back machine.

Library: Jewish Virtual Library
Everything Jewish.

Library: Wesley Center for Applied Theology
Everything Wesley, John or Charles. Everything Methodist, from the beginning to now. There are all of the Wesleys' sermons, writings, and songs, Methodist journal articles dating from the very beginning, and even current articles on Wesleyan theology. This place is huge, but alas, as of this writing, it has no search tool. No matter - you can do it with Google. Just add "+site:nnu.edu" (without the quotes) and you will be searching the library.

Software: E-Sword Bible
This is a really nice Bible search and study tool that is provided totally free. I have seen commercial software that did not work this well.

Please leave a comment with at least one of your favourite resources.

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Top Ten Things. . .

TOP TEN THINGS PEOPLE WON'T SAY WHEN THEY SEE A CHRISTIAN BUMPER STICKER OR FISH ON A CAR

10. "Look! Let's stop that car and ask those folks how we can become Christians."

9. "Don't worry, Billy, those people are Christians. They must have a good reason for driving 90 miles an hour."

8. "What a joy to be sharing the highway with another car of Spirit-filled brothers and sisters."

7. "Isn't it wonderful how God blessed that Christian couple with a brand-new BMW?"

6. "Dad, how come people who drive like that don't get thrown in jail? Can we get a bumper sticker like that, too?"

5. "Stay clear of those folks, Martha. If they get raptured, that car's gonna be all over the road!"

4. "Oh, look! That Christian woman is getting a chance to share Jesus with a police officer."

3. "No, that's not garbage coming out of their windows, Bert. It's probably gospel tracts for the road workers."

2. "That hand gesture must mean something different where they go to church."

1. "Quick, Alice, honk the horn or they won't know that we love Jesus!"

- Anonymous

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Bible Version Debate

The quickest way to get a heated argument going in a fundamental Bible-believing church today is to bring up the subject of which Bible version is the best and most accurate. Everyone has his favorite version, and usually knows why it is the right one to use.

Sometimes you will get more than simple advice. Some people will tell you in the strongest terms which Bible you should use. More often than not, these people will be advocating the Authorized or King James Version (KJV).

I'm not talking about...

Many people have come to love the KJV because of the long familiarity of reading it in their daily devotions and hearing it in sermons. The specific wording of familiar promises is marked in their memory, along with the time in their life when God fulfilled those promises. They were reading the KJV when the Holy Spirit brought light to their soul, peace to their mind, and comfort to their heart. They love the KJV and recommend it to others. They are not about to change to another translation, and they should not. They should stick with what works for them.

I am also not talking about those who think the KJV is superior to any other available English translation because of the Greek texts on which it is based. Some people believe that the Greek texts that underlie the KJV are superior to those used by other translations. Discussions about which Greek texts are more reliable are legitimate, and reasonable Christians can disagree on these points.

I am talking about...

The people I am talking about are those who use all the arguments above and then go far beyond. They contend that the KJV is perfect, that it supersedes the original texts, and that it is inspired by God in every word (one person said, "every syllable"). They believe that it is "God's preserved Word in the English language", and any translation that reads differently is a corruption. They go to great lengths to explain away simple and obvious translation mistakes.

People who hold this position become agitated, even angry, if you dare to suggest that the KJV just might not have been God-breathed. They accuse anyone who doesn't see things their way of being a "Bible hater", an ally of Satan, and of denying the inspiration and preservation of Scripture. For purposes of brevity, I am going to call this position Radical King James Onlyism, or RKJO.

If this isn't you, then relax. I'm talking about a very different, very radical, and often hateful group of people who seek to divide the body of Christ over this arguable matter. Not content with using the KJV themselves, they won't rest until they have imposed their views on everyone they know. They condemn anyone who doesn't agree with them -- often with harsh words and pronouncements of judgment.

A little history

The RKJO movement has its roots in the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) cult. Nearly all of the proofs and argumentative approaches used by RKJO adherents come from the book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated by Benjamin Wilkinson, a Seventh Day Adventist. The SDAs use certain specific wording in the KJV to support their contention for "soul sleep" and other heresies. Wilkinson was concerned that support for his doctrines would go away if people started using other versions. He wrote his book to prop up the KJV because of the way he uses the KJV to prop up his heresies. Since then, the SDAs have come up with their own translation, so they are not so interested in the KJV any more. Sadly, the RKJO position persists.

Today, the largest organized church that holds the King James to be an inspired translation is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. Mormons are forced to take a radical position on the inspiration of the KJV because it is quoted by the Book of Mormon -- a book they claim is a word-for-word dictation from God. Mind you, I am not suggesting guilt by association when I mention the Mormons and SDAs. I'm just providing some context for the discussion.

In the last few decades, the RKJO position has been filtering into fundamentalist Protestant churches. A few small radical Pentecostal denominations have picked it up, but it is mostly found in independent Baptist churches, or with a few individuals scattered throughout otherwise doctrinally sound groups. It hit its peek in the early to mid '90s with the publication of New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger. After Riplinger was refuted, it subsided, but now it has begun to revive again, especially in conservative Holiness churches.

A new series

It would be a mistake to believe that the RKJO position is harmless. Error is never harmless, especially when it involves how God's Word came to us. Believing that the KJV is inspired in every word strikes directly to the heart of the Christian doctrine on inspiration and preservation of Scripture. It cannot be allowed to stand un-refuted. Also, RKJO adherents tend to be very divisive. Their track record shows that if they are not challenged, they often become more strident and will eventually split a congregation of believers.

Over the next few months, I intend to start a series examining some of the positions of Radical King James Onlyism. I will be showing where they have gone off the rails, and how they can be refuted. There are some excellent rebuttals of the RKJO position already in print and available online, so I will be referring to them from time to time. However, I think there is a need for a refutation of the RKJO position from a doctrinally sound, conservative Holiness position. That is what I intend to provide.

I welcome your comments, especially if you are currently in conversation with a radical KJO.

If you are a radical KJO and you want to condemn me or start and argument, just understand that I have already been slandered, called a follower of Satan, condemned as a Bible hater, and a bunch of other stuff, so my skin is really thick. I am not intimidated by bullying. Your comments are welcome, but you won't change my mind.

Stay tuned!

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

No Secrets

The view out my office window is a lovely little lake with a slightly rippled surface broken only occasionally by a Canadian goose, a family of Mallards, or a playful otter. When summer storms blow in, it gets worked up into little white-caps; in winter it turns into a glassy expanse with skiffs of swirling snow. Because it is nearly at eye level, my focus has always been on its surface. I've never given much thought about what might be below that surface.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came to work one day this week to find about a dozen pieces of emergency gear, three dozen men, two boats, and three wreckers working along the edge of the water in drizzling rain. It was evident they had found something very interesting in the lake that probably wasn't supposed to be there.

I learned that someone in our building had seen a car go into the lake and sink out of sight. This had prompted frantic phone calls and the arrival of all that emergency equipment.

They worked for half the morning, and sure enough, out came a car. But it could not have been the car that went in earlier that morning, because it had been in the water a long time. Very little of its blue paint remained. it was heavy with mud, and all four tires were flat. They went into the water again and found an even older car with no paint. By this time, they had mapped the bottom of the lake with sonar and determined that there were 5 cars in the water! Clearly, our placid little lake had some secrets.

Late in the day they fond the car that had been seen sinking into the water. It was a late-model Chrysler 300. No driver has been found. Police think this is a dumping ground for stolen cars or cars that have been used in crimes.

This incident reminds me of how some people can maintain a placid surface in their lives while beneath that surface are secrets no one knows about -- maybe an indiscretion, or an uncharacteristic act in a moment of weakness. It could be a former lifestyle that brings painful memories, or an association with other people that now brings embarrassment. As a coping method, humans tend to repress things they would rather not remember.

This is not all bad. We sometimes need to put things into our past and move on to build new lives. If we could never leave the past, we would always be defined by our worst moments and forced to re-live them in all their painful details.

The problem comes when something we have repressed gets dragged out like an old mud-encrusted car. Inevitably, something will happen to uncover one of those old incidents, and it happens at the most unexpected time. It will break to the surface in a new context, often with more fanfare and embarrassment than when it went in. Jesus warned His Disciples of this:

Luke 12:1 . . . Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. - AV

Every incident, no matter how small or great, will eventually be revealed in all its detail. In a way, this is both a warning and a comfort. It is a comfort, because we can be assured that all the things for which we have been falsely accused will be cleared up. It is a warning because we can be assured that hidden sins will be found out.

The truth that everything will eventually be revealed is a compelling argument for seeking forgiveness of sins and living a transparent life. If we are going to have to deal with them anyway, why not now? Maybe we think the things we have submerged will rust away to nothing and vanish entirely. That's not what happens. Sooner or later they emerge, and they never look any better the second time.

I close with Paul's admonition to Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:24 Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. - AV

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Inspiration: Word for Word or Thought for Thought?

My daughter is a student in a Bible college, and she came home recently with a bee in her bonnet about one of the topics of discussion in her Christian Beliefs class. The lesson was on the inspiration of scripture.

Every fundamentalist Christian believes that the entirety of the scriptural canon is without error and is inspired by God (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16). The actual process by which Scripture came to be inspired is sometimes debated.

My daughter’s professor (whom I know and in whom I have confidence) stated emphatically that scripture was dictated word-for-word (WFW) from God to those who wrote it, or in the case of authors who had scribes, those who spoke it. He warned that believing in thought-for-thought (TFT) inspiration allowed for too much human interpretation of what God intended. Note that I am getting his position second-hand, but I'm only using it to introduce the topic, not argue against him. He may well have excellent supporting arguments I have not heard.

My daughter’s position was simple. When she reads the Bible, she sees the personalities of the authors in each of the books. John doesn't have a style that is anything like Luke’s, the Psalms are poetry written by different people, and the Chronicles read like a history book. Each book bears the unmistakable imprint of a human author writing for a purpose he clearly understands, and yet each book also bears the unmistakable imprint of God's in-breathing. This seems to point to a TFT process of inspiration where the Holy Spirit introduces the topic and preserves the author from error while he records God’s ideas for us. The Bible doesn’t read as though it were given by dictation.

To test her a bit, I pointed out that her argument did not necessarily prove her point because God could have used WFW inspiration and at the same time expressed those words in the author’s personal style. She gave me a look like I had stretched a point too far, and she was right. The outcome of this kind of WFW inspiration could not be distinguished from TFT inspiration, making it a distinction without a difference.

My wife pointed out that there are internal evidences in Scripture for TFT inspiration. In Revelation 1:19 the resurrected Christ tells John, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” Jesus gives him the vision, but seems to leave it up to john to put it into words. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all had similar experiences. My wife also pointed out our pastor’s citation of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:6 “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” Here the Holy Spirit did not directly dictate the words to Paul, unless one were to contend that Paul was being dictated to without knowing it. Yet those words were preserved from error and became Scripture when they were written down.

Another argument on this topic comes from 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul is chiding the Corinthian church for their chaotic church services. He asks them to use self control and to defer to others in the service. Then in verse 32 he reminds them, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” This agrees with the general principle that God does not take direct control of our human will or physical faculties in order to bring about His will. A method of inspiration whereby God literally moved the writer’s hand or spoke words through his mouth would clearly be unprecedented.

All this makes WFW look doubtful. But there is one more thing to consider. If God gave the Scriptures thought-for-thought and not word-for-word, it implies that the thoughts could have been expressed with different words. No two words, though, have the same definition. This means that in any given language, once a thought is committed to words, changing any one word is highly likely to change the thought. If the received Scriptures are inspired, wouldn’t each word be important?

If we were to say that God gave scripture by TFT inspiration, but preserved the authors from error, how would He do so? Would it not be by making sure the authors used the correct words? How then does this differ from word-for-word inspiration? Have we set up another distinction without a difference?

Well, one way to look at it is to review God’s intentions for His words. We can see from the Great Commission and the book of Acts that God wanted the Gospel to spread throughout the world, across language and culture barriers. Word-for-word inspiration would imply that God intended that His words would be transmitted, studied, preached, and shared exactly as He gave them. This would mean that the converts would first have to learn Hebrew, Chaldean, Aramaic, and Greek before they would have God’s words.

But, since languages rarely have words with identical meanings, word-for-word translation is impossible. All translations (even those that claim to be word-for-word) are an attempt to convey the thoughts in the original passage into the target language. People have read these translations, believed the Gospel, grown in grace and knowledge, and died in the faith without being able to read a single word of Greek. They were able to do so because God’s thoughts transcend the words.

So, what did I tell my daughter? I lean toward thought-for-thought inspiration with the understanding that the Holy Spirit preserved the authors from error in expressing those thoughts. In practice, this means that in some places, the Holy Spirit gave the writers the actual words to use. In other places, He let them express their thoughts in their own unique ways while He overshadowed them and kept them from error.

The result for us is the same either way. We have the complete, sufficient, inerrant, and unchangeable Word of God.

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